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LET ME SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT FOR I AM ANNOYED!
Member Name: blazeybug
Date: 29/06/09, updated on 31/12/10 (181 review reads)
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I wasn't actually intending to write a review on NHS Direct. I am simply a former employee that was nosing at what people thought of the service.
Some of the scathing reviews and downright bull on here have really got my back up and I feel I need to voice my opinion, especially since I was an employee so know both sides.
Okay, most know what NHS Direct is, it is a 24 hours free telephone and internet based communication method to help people with health information and queries.
My first issue is reading a review where someone had basically slated the service based on what they had read in the paper. If you have not experienced the service first hand - don't review. Simple as.
I worked for NHS Direct up until 2 months ago (I left due to my Grandfather being very ill) and would take on average 60 calls per evening. I was one of the Health Advisors, which is the first person you speak to (the 'fresh graduates' as people on here have called us). We undergo very good, thorough training and are reviewed throughout out employment.
The first moan people had is that we ask pointless questions... okay let me explain as I can understand how it may seem to someone who is ignorant of how the system works.
The Health Advisors ask your name, age, date of birth and current location and postcode as if you are having a serious problem, they can get you an ambulance straight away and they have to relay this information to the ambulance service.
A lot of people don't know this but you can actually say you would prefer not to give the information, you are well within your rights. However, if you call with a stomach ache and do not want to give your age it means they do not know if you are pre or post menopause etc. Some illness are more common in certain ages and sexes so it is always going to be a more accurate assessment the more information you provide.
After that they ask your main symptoms. They will then ask further questions on the symptom to determine the severity of the issue.
This is called prioritising. Lets say you ring up with a painful foot, that you have told us you can stand on. That has established that it is not excrutiating as you would not be able to stand on it. Meanwhile you have a man that is struggling for breath and has chest pain. Who is a bigger risk and a higher priority? Obviously the gentleman who is struggling for breath.
The less severe your symptoms, the longer you will wait for a call back. To me that is logical. The longest I have ever known someone to wait is 15 hours, and according to some of the other staff that was the longest they had ever seen a call back time; so I must disagree with the review where someone claims they waited 48hours for a phone call and 'could have been dead by then''. That persons' call would have also been assessed to ensure it was not urgent. It does not make sense, if the call back time was only 15 hours in our busiest period ever. Sure, it was probably urgent to the caller but that does not make it a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. That is what people need to realise.
Depending on your symptoms the Health Advisors will refer you to your GP if you require seeing face to face, A&E, dispatch an ambulance or refer you to one of our nurses.
It has been PROVEN that we HAVE reduced the pressure on out of hours doctors and A&E departments.
I cannot stand the way people seem to think NHS Direct are idiots. The nurses there are very knowledgable and well trained and the 'fresh graduates' have saved lives. Slate them all you want. THEY HAVE saved lives and that is an amazing feeling. I should know.
It is also a very emotional job and I have been in floods of tears on several occasions (am actually in tears writing this thinking back to some of my experiences) and when you get callers that are rude to you it is awful.
I have had calls where I have had a hysterical screaming mother on the phone because her baby was choking and turning blue. Suicidal callers standing there on the other end of the phone with a knife in their hand to slit their wrists. Someone who is having a very apparent heart attack. People in sobbing fits and do not have anyone to turn too. Screaming mums with their son choking on his own vomit.
It is NOT an easy job and anyone who wants to argue otherwise is not worth my oxygen.
If a problem is assessed as extremely urgent then it is the job of the Health Advisor to call 999 and have an ambulance sent out. It is the most scary feeling in the world. You constantly worry "am I going quick enough? Am I going to be responsible for someone's death"
When you have calls like the above, you then get someone else call going beserk at you because they have have an assessed low priority problem and are waiting for a call back. It does take a lot to not bite and say "ok Madam, I will get the nurse to hang up on the man who is about to kill himself and get her to call you straight away about your sons papercut"
That being said the Health Advisors do understand that you are in agony, but medically if you have an earache then that is not an emergency, but it is still hard to hear someone crying in pain and knowing that there is nothing you can do as you have to follow protocol. They do feel bad that there is nothing more they can do.
I personally have never ever been rude to a caller, you may not be aware but NHS Direct do also offer other services such as locating you an NHS Dentist, GP or answering general questions such as "Can I take nurofen with paracetamol?" They treat every call the same, even when I had a call from a 14 yr old lad asking me if he was pregnant after having gay sex (with all his mates howling with laughter in the background) I remained professional.
I did actually have people call in to speak to a manager to tell them about the excellent service that I personally gave, which is just lovely and gives you a huge boost.
I also am a user of the service. I have called before with general questions, and one particular one that sticks in my head was when my friend was leaking a clear fluid from a wound on her back after having surgery. I spoke to a lovely nurse who advised (after I gave the full information) that she was quite possibly leaking spinal fluid and needed to get back to hospital as she could end up brain damaged. My friend went back to her consultant and this 'assessment' was totally and utterly correct.
I am making myself even more irritated so I will sum up...
I would never say that any service is correct 100% of the time, there will always be one or two that slip through the net. However, the media do love to portray NHS Direct in a negative light. They do not mention the statistics of the people we have helped. Oh no, they only ever report the controversy.
Also, do try to keep in mind that the people at NHS Direct are exactly that. PEOPLE. They have feelings and they work very hard doing their best.
1. NHS Direct do make it very clear on ALL calls that they do not diagnose as they are not with you and therefore cannot examine you. They assess your SYMPTOMS. Let me be clear on that. SYMPTOMS. So if you miss out a symptom that is important that is not their problem. This can be proven as every single call to NHS Direct is recorded to ensure the staff are not doing anything wrong.
2. You do have the choice to not take the advice given, if a nurse has said 'do not worry, your child is fine' but you are gravely concerned that they have not given you the right advice then SEEK OTHER ADVICE.
3. If NHS Direct refer you to your out of hours GP, then it is not their fault if the GP takes ages to get back to you. Nor is it their fault if there is not an emergency dentist in your area.
I was a huge fan of the service before I was an employee. Seeing it as an employee made me appreciate it even more.
People do not praise enough - if you receive good service then let them know. They do not hear it often enough!
FYI - not a graduate.
DISCLAIMER. Please be advised that I am not a spokesperson for NHS DIRECT and speak of my own experience of the service. This is my opinion and experiences only.
Summary: NHS Direct save lives. Simple as.
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